When it comes to mosquito control, technology is the key

Phil Goodman, Florida Keys Mosquito Control District II Commissioner, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about what’s been going on with the mosquitos. 

The organization has been relatively busy recently with trying to control the mosquitos. 

The Oxitec program, a company that created a self-limiting gene in the Aedes aegypti mosquito, is in its third year for the trials and the Keys have participated under the EPA experimental use permits. 

Goodman said, “Everything’s going very well, just as planned thus far. In the past trials the EPA has determined this is very safe for humans, for animals, for the environment in the Florida Keys. What we did two years ago we proved that it worked and last year we proved that it worked very well in the Keys.” 

The process will be fine tuned with the lessons learned over the last few years. 

There are several hundred home sites participating in the program and all are volunteers. 

Goodman said, “The public support continues to be very strong on this and these also continue to be funded by Oxitec, not by our taxpayers.” 

There are actually two parts to the test this year. 

One is a continuation of the multiple release sites for the mosquitos, which will replicate what will happen if the process is approved by the EPA. It looks to see how well the community can be controlled. 

Goodman explained, “What we’re mainly focusing on is population suppression. We saw really good numbers last year. We hope to see even better this year because we’ve improved a lot of the processes.” 

The other part of the trial is called the mini-box where Oxitec is looking at individual homesites to see how well smaller boxes can control the Aedes aegypti population on a single home. 

Goodman said, “If this process gets commercialized by the EPA and we believe it will in a few years, in addition to marketing these to mosquito controls, they’ll be marketing to the public through your local hardware store. Similar as to you can buy some of the chemicals we use in mosquito control at the local hardware, this will be available as well.”

All the data from the last two years of trials has been sent to the EPA. An answer is not expected until 2025. 

Goodman said, “We do plan to continue trying and proving this process until we do get approval.” 

The Aedes aegypti mosquito has been moving out of the tropics in recent years and bringing the diseases along with it. 

Goodman said, “Last year there were more than 800 cases of dengue fever brought in to Florida from more than 20 countries and spreading dengue fever within Florida. Most of those were in the Miami-Dade area.”

So the only way to control the diseases is to control the mosquito population. That’s done mostly through chemical spraying. 

But over the last few years, the have become resistant. 

Goodman said, “We need new technologies and this process like Oxitec are really what we are counting on to be a significant improvement once we get these approved.” 

Sever dengue fever can result in shock, internal bleeding and even death. 

Locally the Keys has had no dengue fever this year. 

Goodman said, “We have a very robust program for controlling the Aedes aegypti.” 

If there are extended winds and rains, it’s tough to chemically treat like normal and things can get behind. 

Miami-Dade is continuing to see cases of dengue fever. 

Goodman said, “We’re on high alert here in the Florida Keys to continue to keep this disease out of the Keys. We appreciate everybody’s help so far.” 

It’s important to remember to get rid of standing water on your property. 

The Mosquito Control Board is always looking at new technologies to control the mosquito population. 

Goodman said, “Because we are really in a tropical maritime climate here, which is very unique. We’re kind of on our own here.” 

Technology that’s been developed in other regions just aren’t applicable in the Keys because of the climate. 

One of the new technologies for the Aedes aegypti is a spray by a truck, which has helped a lot. They are also working on traps that kills the mosquito by sound waves. 

Other traps are laid where a larvicide attaches to the mosquitos which kills the eggs and goes with the mosquitos in other areas. 

A recent graph showed that year by year since 2009 when the Aedes aegypti was first found in the Keys, the number of mosquitos have been reduced each year. 

The first trial of a new pesticide will be performed later this month. 

Goodman said, “There’s just not been any pesticides developed, but now there is a new one that just got registered by the EPA. It’s mainly for Aedes aegypti to help overcome this resistance problem. We’ve come a long way. We still have a ways to go, but so far we’ve been pretty successful here in controlling the Aedes aegypti up to the limits we’re capable of with today’s technology.”

People are reminded to continue to be diligent to empty standing water on their property — don’t give the mosquitos the breeding ground they need.